Justin Morneau and the MVP

Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune offers a rather defensive, sarcastic response to the nattering nabobs of negativism in the blogosphere who have ripped the selection of Justin Morneau as MVP.

I was going to do a Fisking of the piece, but Fire Joe Morgan has already done so, saving me the trouble...I'll just direct you there, instead (with the usual caveat that the language in the post is R-rated).

However, there are a few things I wanted to expand upon...

The usual endorsement of Morneau has to do with the fact that he was great in the last four months of the season, and that was why he deserves the MVP.

Regardless of whether someone who sucks in the first month or so of the year (and make no mistake, Morneau was awful in April) but then is great the last four months of the year is really more deserving of the MVP than someone who is great all year long...

Morneau wasn't the best player in the A.L. in the second half of the season.  He had a 930 OPS after the break, well behind A.L. leader David Ortiz, who had an 1121 OPS after the break.  Others who were above 1000 include Robinson Cano, Manny Ramirez, Vlad Guerrero, Travis Hafner, and Richie Sexson.

And Mark Teixeira was just 2 points away, with a 998 post-break OPS.  No one talks about him as an MVP candidate (probably because he finished a paltry 13th in 2-out RBIs).  

Alex Rodriguez and Grady Sizemore both had better second half OPSs than Morneau, as did such luminaries as Greg Norton, Mark Teahen and Carlos Guillen.

Heck, Joe Mauer had an 882 OPS after the break, and he also was a gold glove caliber catcher, to boot.

Morneau, believe it or not, actually had a better OPS in the first half (939) than in the second half.  This is mainly because he was dominant in June and July, posting an 1100+ OPS in both months, while never cracking a 900 OPS for any other month of the year.

Morneau also, at least according to Christensen, got bonus points because of 2-out RBIs.

So I went and looked, and sure enough, Morneau was tied for first in the A.L. (with Frank Thomas) in RBIs with two outs, with 53.  And Thomas was third on Christensen's ballot, so that seems to have weighted heavily in at least one voter's mind.

However...Michael Cuddyer and David Ortiz each had 50 RBIs with two outs, and both had a better OPS than Morneau in those situations (and Thomas, for that matter).  Shouldn't Cuddyer and Ortiz be in the top 5, as well?  Should they really be punished because they have a measly 3 two-out RBIs fewer than Morneau?

Interestingly, Hank Blalock, Alex Rodriguez, and Carl Crawford are all tied for 6th in 2 out RBIs, while Vlad Guerrero, Richie Sexson, and Torii Hunter are all tied for 9th.  Maybe Sexson and Blalock should have gotten some MVP love, as well...particularly Sexson, who was also better in the second half than Morneau...

What is interesting about Morneau is that he peaked in early August...after hitting a homer and drawing a pair of walks on August 5, he had a 983 OPS, which was the high point for him on the year.  He only hit 5 more homers the rest of the way, with 33 RBIs, in 53 games -- equivalent to 15 homers and 100 RBIs over the course of a full season.  

And on August 6, the Twins were 64-45 -- still a game and a half back of the ChiSox, who were 65-43, and still way behind Detroit.  After Chicago beat Minnesota on August 27, the Twins were just a half game up on Chicago, after a stretch where Morneau had been mortal.

The Twins pulled away in September...and the guys who really produced then for Minnesota with the bats were Rondell White (960 OPS) and Joe Mauer (943 OPS).  Even Torii Hunter had a 904 OPS in September, while hitting 9 homers and driving in 27 runs, versus just 2 and 19 for Morneau.

Justin Morneau is a very nice young ballplayer who had a terrific year for the Twins last year, and was a key part of getting them to the playoffs.

But he wasn't one of the 10 best players in the A.L.  And even by the criteria offered by one of the voters who supported Morneau -- rather unorthodox  criteria, which seems to have been tailored to fit Morneau -- there were superior candidates.

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